|| AFP ||
England captain Ben Stokes insisted he had no fears for the future of Test cricket as he prepares to lead his side in an Ashes series against arch-rivals Australia.
England begin their home red-ball season in a lone, four-day, Test against Ireland at Lord's starting Thursday.
There have long been concerns about franchise Twenty20 cricket crowding out the traditional long-format game, except for marquee series such as the five-match Ashes campaign that begins next month.
These worries intensified when Ireland left rising star Josh Little out of their squad for this week's encounter. The fast bowler was rested after a successful Indian Premier League spell with runners-up Gujarat Titans and ahead of a 50-over World Cup qualification tournament in Zimbabwe.
Cricket Ireland's high performance director Richard Holdsworth said the Lord's Test was not a "pinnacle event" for his side this season.
Stokes, a World Cup winner with England in both 50-over and T20 cricket as well as a mainstay of the Test side, was sympathetic.
But the 31-year-old all-rounder also told reporters at Lord's on Wednesday: "I've always been a huge advocate of the Test format. The whole landscape and the whole game of cricket is literally just changing in front of everyone's eyes so quickly."
"Look at what T20 has done for the game in general, the amount of attraction it's brought –- new fans, new players its brought into playing cricket regardless of the format and also what T20 has been able to bring in terms of Test cricket...So, I don't see a world where T20 and Tests aren't being played in the future."
He added: "I don't know what this build-up period before the Ashes is like compared to 2005 (when England won a classic series), no idea, but it's very hard to ignore and not be able to see the excitement."
England have won 10 of their 12 Tests since Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum were appointed in May last year, with their aggressive approach dubbed 'Bazball' after former New Zealand captain McCullum's nickname.
A pillar of the new regime has been to avoid placing limits on what is possible, with England turning conventional Test thinking on its head by scoring a staggering 506-4 in December on the opening day in Rawalpindi during a 3-0 series win in Pakistan.
Asked if a 500-run day in the Ashes, against a proven Australia attack, was possible, Stokes replied: "Be alright, wouldn't it? Anything is possible I think if you have the backing to go out and do it."
He added: "I think what we have seen over the last year is that the same players who have been playing for a while go a lot higher in terms of their potential and them understanding they might be better than they thought they were. I think that is totally down to the mindset switch."